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Making a Great First Impression

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Making a Great First Impression

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

You've heard the old cliche: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

That's a scary enough thought in your personal life, but in your professional life, it's downright terrifying. If you meet a stranger at a party and act like a goofball, it's usually pretty easy to shrug it off. You just move on to the next party-goer and hope you don't run into that person again.

But make a bad first impression with a potential employer, VIP clients, or new co-workers and it can send ripples of damage through your career. Kiss that job, that multi-million dollar deal, and any respect good-bye.

So how do you MAKE SURE that the first impression you make is a positive one?

That's what Julie from Sag Harbor, Long Island wants to know, too:

Dear Michelle:

Hey, congratulate me because I've just landed a spot on the team of a new rebranding initiative in my company. I am so excited about this opportunity; it's a real chance to shine for upper management, and it could be the break that I've been looking for.

So what's the problem, right?

Well, I don't know anyone else on the team. I'm a relative newcomer to the organization, and until now, I have only worked with my own division. I'm really nervous about making a good impression with these people and being able to work well with them. When put in this of kind of position, I have a tendency to either clam up and act like a wallflower or to over-compensate and wind up looking bossy and obnoxious. I can't afford to look obnoxious and certainly not bossy!

How can I make the right impression with my new teammates?

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Okay Julie, the FIRST impression you make is CRITICAL. And I won't lie: this can be tricky because it requires a certain amount of balance. When you try too hard, you seem like you're overdoing it, and you can come off as being insincere. If you don't try hard enough, you can give off an air of arrogance and aloofness that's a real turn-off, too.

The number one thing you should do: go in prepared to learn.  

Next, take a slow approach in developing relationships. You might want to jump right in and make everyone your new best friend, but being overly friendly can backfire big time and make you seem like you're desperate to be liked. More important than friendship is RESPECT. And respect (and trust) takes time to build. Start building it on day one and you'll see your relationships with teammates thrive in the future.

Let your work speak for you. If you enter the team with skills, a solid work ethic, a can-do attitude, and an open mind, your colleagues will see that you're an asset and they'll welcome you into their fold.

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WARNING: Resist the urge to impress people. That may seem counter-intuitive, but it's a MUST. If you barrel into this team with YOUR ideas and YOUR way of doing things and YOUR vision for how YOU'RE going to whip them into shape, your new teammates will feel threatened, defensive and offended by the notion that you think you need to "fix" their team. Impress them by doing the jobs that you are assigned and by doing them incredibly well. Think about "easy wins," small accomplishments that aren't going to threaten anyone's ego too much and are going to cement your status as an asset to the team.

Be patient. Your time to shine WILL come. With a couple of minor accomplishments under your belt, your teammates will start to respect you and entrust you with bigger pieces of the pie and possibly even a leadership role.

By being competent, pleasant and professional, you'll give them the tools they need to create a BUZZ about you and your ability to contribute to the team and to the initiatives that the team is working on. Remember: someone ELSE talking about how incredible you are goes a lot further than YOU talking about how incredible you are.

Good luck with the new initiative and the new team, Julie!

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�I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.� � Henry David Thoreau